Rona Mae Levein, of Marble Canyon, passed away on the night of July 30, 2017, at the age of 85. She died peacefully in her sleep in her house where she lived for 40 years surrounded by her gardens and the staggering beauty of the Vermillion Cliffs.
Rona was born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island on March 10, 1932, and attended Woonsocket High School, Class of 1949. After graduating Barnard College in 1953, she took a six month holiday in Europe.
“When I came back, I put on a blue suit, white gloves and went out looking for success.” She began her career as a secretary and writer, and was New York City’s first female doorman which earned her a spot on “What’s My Line” in 1958.
At a time when women were scarce in the corporate world, Rona began working her way up the corporate ladder in advertising and cosmetics. At 35, she became a vice president for one the world’s largest advertising agencies, but felt her life was missing something.
On a whim in 1976 she booked a river trip down the Colorado River through Grand Canyon; the beautiful simplicity of the river and its canyons transformed her life. Two years later, Rona moved from New York City to Marble Canyon. In her early years at Marble Canyon, she delivered the mail across the AZ strip in her VW bus with her dog Palomine by her side. She also provided Grand Canyon and Paria Canyon shuttle services. These jobs allowed her to escape on frequent worldly adventures. She managed to travel the world visiting Antarctica, Africa, Europe, Argentina, China and countless other places. She hiked at Tiger Leaping gorge, climbed Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Kenya, skydived seven times, came nose to nose with a silverback gorilla and went on many safaris and countless adventure/trekking trips.
Rona ran rivers in Alaska and throughout the West and attended a seven-day whitewater rowing class in Idaho at the age of 82. She rafted down the Grand Canyon at least 15 times, with her latest trip at age 83. A lifelong learner, she took online educational classes and attended dance and martial arts classes in Page and Flagstaff.
She was also an excellent writer and speaker, able to converse knowledgeably about most subjects with great prose. Rona Levein’s short story, Joy on Kilimanjaro was published in a book of travel stories by women authors, A Woman’s World Again, 2007…a career first!
In short, Rona was an extraordinary woman who led an epic life.
Rona is survived by her many dear friends throughout Northern Arizona and around the world.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Oct. 14, on the patio of her home on Badger Creek Road in Marble Canyon. All are invited to come and share memories of Rona. Light refreshments will be served — please feel free to bring a dessert to share as desserts were Rona’s favorite. Memories may be shared online at Rona’s Facebook page. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Rona’s name to Grand Canyon Youth at www.gcyouth.org